Health inequalities statistics released

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland.

Scotland’s Chief Statistician today announced the publication of the latest Long-term Monitoring of Health Inequalities: Headline Indicators report.

The gap in health outcomes between the most deprived and least deprived areas of Scotland is reported for a variety of indicators in absolute and relative terms, including mental wellbeing, premature mortality, and a range of morbidity and mortality indicators relating to alcohol, cancer and coronary heart disease.

Main findings

With the exception of the healthy birthweight indicator, significant health inequalities persist for each indicator covered in the report.

In a number of indicators, absolute inequality (the gap between the most and least deprived areas) has narrowed over the longer term:

  • Premature mortality - the gap has reduced by 16% from its peak in 2002
  • CHD deaths - the gap has reduced by 47% from its peak in 1997
  • First alcohol-related hospital admission - the gap has reduced by 43% since the start of the time series in 1996
  • All-cause mortality in those aged 15-44 – the gap has reduced by 16% from its peak in 2001
  • Low birthweight – the gap has reduced by 31% since its peak in 2004.

The gap has widened for two indicators:

  • Limiting long-term conditions – the gap has increased by 39% since the start of the time series in 2008/2009.
  • Self-assessed health – the gap has increased by 47% since the start of the time series in 2008/2009

For the other indicators in the report, long term trends in the absolute gap are less clear.

Relative inequalities

The relative index of inequality (RII) indicates the extent to which health outcomes are worse in the most deprived areas compared to the average throughout Scotland. It is possible for absolute inequalities to improve, but relative inequalities to worsen.

There are three morbidity indicators for which the RII can reasonably be compared with one another: alcohol-related hospital admissions; heart attack hospital admissions; and cancer incidence.

Amongst these, relative inequalities in alcohol-related hospital admissions have declined over the long term and heart attack admissions inequalities have increased in the years since 2008. Relative inequalities have remained higher in the alcohol-related indicator however.

Inequalities in cancer incidence have remained lowest and more stable in relative terms.

Amongst the three comparable mortality indicators (CHD deaths, alcohol-related deaths and cancer deaths), relative inequalities in CHD mortality have increased over the long term. The relative inequalities in alcohol-related deaths have shown more year to year fluctuation over the same period, but the RII for 2015 (1.88) is ultimately the same as at the start of time series in 1997.

The RII for cancer mortality has increased slightly over the longer term. However, inequalities remain wider in alcohol-related deaths and coronary heart disease deaths.

The figures released today were produced in accordance with professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.


The full statistical publication is available here

A Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities was established in 2007 to identify and prioritise practical actions to reduce the most significant and widening health inequalities in Scotland. A technical advisory group set up in 2008 recommended a range of indicators on health inequalities to be monitored over time, and most recently met in July 2015 to review the list of indicators and methods.  This publication updates those headline indicators.

Further information is available here

Official statistics are produced in accordance with professional standards  – more information on the standards of official statistics in Scotland can be accessed here


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